Penguins fall to Blues, lose for 3rd time in 4 games

| Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, 10:54 p.m.

ST. LOUIS — In the opening minutes of the third period, St. Louis winger Troy Brouwer got a bounce.

The Penguins never bounced back.

Brouwer's goal with 17:50 left in regulation sparked the Blues to a 5-2 victory Monday night, sending the Penguins to their third loss in their past four games.

The Penguins came into the third period in pretty good shape, tied 2-2 but outshooting the Blues, 31-17.

Momentum turned when Paul Stastny took a whack at a puck along the right-wing wall. It hopped up into the air and took one bounce in the slot past defenseman Ian Cole to Brouwer at the left hash marks. His one-timer got between the pads of goalie Jeff Zatkoff to make it 3-2.

“I see it on the way down and I try to play it before it can bounce,” Cole said. “It just happens to bounce early and bounces over my stick right on his tape.”

Statsny scored with 8:22 to go, Kevin Shattenkirk added an empty netter and the Penguins fell to 2-7-1 this season on the back end of a set of games on consecutive days.

“I thought we played really, really well for 40 minutes,” Zatkoff said. “I don't know if maybe games are catching up to us. No excuse, but we've had a really rough schedule. We lost a step there in the third.”

Coach Mike Sullivan did not agree with his goaltender in that regard.

“I don't think it had anything to do with running out of gas,” Sullivan said. “We knew St. Louis was going to push back in the third period. We dominated the second period, and they're a proud team and they're a good team. We knew they were going to push back. We just have to find a way to match that urgency through that stretch and control that momentum, and we didn't do that.”

Having played Sunday at home, the Penguins were also wrapping up a stretch of three games in four days. Zatkoff, therefore, got the start, playing for the first time since Dec. 31.

When it came to stopping pucks shot at him, Zatkoff had a fine night. Other parts of the game were what let him down.

Take, for example, the goal that gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead in the first period.

Zatkoff lunged out of his net to poke-check a puck from a charging Brouwer, but it pinballed around until Alexander Steen corralled it and shot it past Cole playing goaltender into an empty net.

“Sometimes the puck takes a couple of hops and you don't get the bounces,” Zatkoff said. “I thought the effort was there. We just fell short in the last 20.”

The Penguins tied the score 1-1 late in the first when Chris Kunitz scored on a breakaway after a blocked shot by Sidney Crosby and a long head-man pass by Kris Letang, who showed no ill effects of an apparent upper-body injury that kept him out of the previous game and left him a game-time decision Monday.

The Penguins took a 2-1 lead when Evgeni Malkin blew past Jay Bouwmeester up the right wing and scored a highlight-reel goal late in the second.

Malkin's countryman, Vladimir Tarasenko, responded less than two minutes later with a mirror image of a goal, beating Ben Lovejoy up the right wing and making the score 2-2.

“I thought we worked to try to get (momentum) back,” Sullivan said, “but we weren't able to mount the attack that we needed to.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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